5 Elements to Avoid in Your InMail Campaigns

I studied the best InMail campaigns over the last year, and this is what I learned: The fastest way to increase LinkedIn InMail response rates is to break away from the pack. Stand out. Write messages in radically different ways.

I studied the best InMail campaigns over the last year, and this is what I learned: The fastest way to increase LinkedIn InMail response rates is to break away from the pack. Stand out. Write messages in radically different ways.

First and foremost, be sure you’re not using popular InMail tactics. Generally speaking, if LinkedIn is promoting a “best practice” you can bet it’s tired, old and ineffective. This isn’t my opinion; rather, it’s the experience coaching sales reps and small business owners.

Starting a conversation with decision-makers is increasingly difficult … unless you make a clean break from standard messaging practices. This means, generally, avoid:

Change your game. Radically. Stand out. It’s the fastest way to run the best InMail campaign possible.

The best InMail campaigns avoid using weak words and structure. These include (but are not limited to) messages using:

  • Cordial (yet unnecessary) salutations
  • “Hook” questions (that customers see right through)
  • Descriptions of value your company provides and calls to action (too early)

Sadly, a large number of people are sending InMail campaigns that fail to avoid these elements. The below is an actual email that hit my inbox this morning. I’ve disguised the sender’s name and company. However, they are a nearly 1,000-employee organization selling lead identification services, in which you can “identify your anonymous website visitors turning them into leads.”

Worth noting, most of our clients have used this SaaS (software as a service) company with poor results.

1. Subject Line Telegraphing “Sales Pitch Inside”

Subject of our example: “Start your year in the LEAD”

The job of an InMail subject line is singular: Spark curiosity about what’s inside the message itself. The above subject line (“Start your year in the LEAD”) fails to deliver because it:

  • Attempts to be cute (with a pun)
  • Is written in a marketing tone
  • Identifies what’s inside (a sales pitch about lead generation)
  • Reads like a slogan or ad title

Instead, our clients’ experiences shows the best InMail subject lines perform because they are:

  • 4 words or less
  • Avoid cute / marketing tone
  • Contain a “tension” element, provoking curiosity
  • Leaning toward vague

2. Salutations That Inadvertently Subvert

“Hey Jeff.”

This is the salutation given in my example. In the words of sales trainer, Jeb Blount, “Don’t ‘bro’ me until you know me.”

Blount says if you present yourself to strangers (prospects) in a familiar way, you’re asking for trouble. It may come off as rude or disrespectful.

“You may offend the person who is going to pay your next commission check,” says Blount who recently got two InMail and two email messages using words like “hey” and “dude” and “bro.” This is language you would use with friends in a bar. Not a prospect.

After they “Hey Jeff,” my seller chose this phrase:

“I hope you had a great Christmas and a happy new year! Just a quick message to see if you’ve heard of ABC Company?”

Aligning with that overly familiar “hey,” this sales rep shows zero effort in making his InMail message relevant to me. Instead, he wishes me well as a means to break ice and appear familiar.

This is the most transparent way to communicate, “I have nothing worthwhile for you.” to me. Believe me. It also wastes precious time. One doesn’t even need to open their email if they see a subject line and first sentence like this in their email client.

This tactic is an insurance policy on not getting opened and being marked as spam … or, at best, being deleted.

Worse, the rep asks a yes or no “hook” question … which is all about his company. This is the worst flavor of hook questions as it is the most self-centered possible.

Can you imagine what is coming next … after he asks, “Have you heard of my company?” Of course you can. A sales pitch.

3. Too Much, Too Fast

Next, this sales rep launches directly into his pitch:

“ABC Company has revolutionized website lead generation for customers throughout North America — the software will give you better marketing and sales insight than you’ve ever had before, enabling you to maximize your ROI and fuel your sales team with high quality, sales-ready leads.”

Setting aside the many grammar, punctuation and readability of this message it is plagued with marketing copy. This is a problem.

Think of it this way. Pretend you are a sales rep for this company. Read the above aloud to yourself … as if you were standing across from someone, face-to-face. If you feel too silly just pretend you’re reading it aloud in your head … but picture yourself delivering that gigantic, self-centered, posturing blather face-to-face.

The tone is “radio or TV spot.” It’s a marketing tone. There is nothing provocative about it. This message puts the company before the value it provides.

Instead, it needs to contain one-to-one, personal tone … to be part of the best InMail campaign possible.. to provoke replies and start conversations with targets.

Instead, it presents the company’s value proposition without the prospect (me) having (first) expressed interest. The remainder of this email relies exclusively on the “yes” answer to the hook question.

Even if the prospect (me in this case) were to answer “yes” to the hook question the copy is difficult to read and tone is advert-like.

4. More Hooks, More Unsolicited Answers

The InMail message continues:

“What does ABC Company give you?”

This is the classic marketing hook question. I’ve seen instances where sellers follow “What can we give you?” with “I thought you’d never ask.” Simply horrible. Usually written by low-skilled copywriters … for their sales force to use.

The message continues with a list of objectives the seller assumes are valuable to me. He assumes this because he doesn’t know. And I get that. But if this seller took time to provoke a discussion then he would know.

I would know he knows. That would make him vastly different than 95% of other sellers vying for my attention. That would be good for him!

Because some of his value proposition does sound valuable. But this information is coming too soon in the conversation.

I (as a buyer) need to ask for these details to be shared … then the seller can email me more information.

This shows him I am hungry … I have been provoked.

Instead, the seller pushes information at me, saying I will get:

  1. Details of precisely which organizations have visited your website – in real-time
  2. The contact information of key decision makers at those organizations – including telephone numbers and email addresses
  3. Insight into how they found you, what they have looked at and how long they spent on your website
  4. Real-time alerts to your sales team when a prospect visits your website

5. Calls to Action

In typical marketing style the seller concludes with a call to action in his sales-driven InMail campaign.

He concludes by asking for the meeting.

You should never ask for the meeting in a cold email message.

“If you are curious to see how our software will benefit Communications Edge, let’s arrange a complimentary online demonstration and discuss our completely free, no obligation trial. What’s the best direct dial or email to reach you? — are you available sometime this week?”

Sadly, odds of his prospects making this far down the message are nearly zero. However, use of words here (at end and throughout) tear down his chances of earning replies.

Because the copy risks him sounding desperate.

“Completely free?” As opposed to non-complete freeness? Hmm. Sounds sketchy. “No obligation.” Hmm. He’s still trying to reassure me this will be good for me. Words like “hope” and “looking forward to your reply” and “I would love to” all risk making sellers look desperate for the meeting.

Also, notice how he suggests what he said (so far in this message) might make me curious. Hmm. Even if I was interested in his general value proposition he has given me so much information to consider (about himself) so soon in the game I have very few questions … very little curiosity.

This entire exchange becomes a “yes or no.” I either want to contact him, now, because I have a need or not. This limits his response and engaging as many targets as possible. (warm and hot leads)

If I don’t yet have a need there is no incentive to be in touch with him.

He also shares:

“Don’t have time to talk? Book your demo online: [link]”

… and …

“P.S. For a bit more info, feel free to take a further look here [link]”

Largely, calls to action are ineffective and inappropriate in sales emails and LinkedIn InMail messages. Multiple calls-to-action add to the confusion. It is best to look exclusively for a response in InMail campaigns, in most cases.

What has your experience taught you about structuring the best InMail campaign possible?

This Is a Callout Post! (It’s a Post About Call to Action Buttons, Okay.)

I don’t know about you, but for me, sometimes the trickiest part of creating a good email is actually one of the smallest details — the call to action. That’s why I’m always on the lookout for new and creative ways to grab the readers’ attention, and draw them in for that all-important click.

I don’t know about you, but for me, sometimes the trickiest part of creating a good email is actually one of the smallest details — the call to action (CTA).

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I have a little bit of a complex when it comes to not doing the same thing over and over in my copy. So I always flinch just a little bit giving instructions to the art department for the same, basic “REGISTER NOW!” or “BUY NOW!” button in its usual red or orange rectangle.

That’s why I’m always on the lookout for new and creative ways to grab the readers’ attention, and draw them in for that all-important click. Join me on this journey to find CTAs with interesting, eye-catching designs and/or clever phrasing sure to serve its purpose.

Here are a handful I found, in no particular order.

Modcloth is always solid in their emails — they have a recognizable aesthetic and tone that resonates well with their young, quirky female target, and their CTAs are no exception. I included a few here because I couldn’t choose one that was “best”!



(This one was part of an April Fool’s themed email.)


Here’s one that made good use of content in its CTA, in addition to the offered deal itself. This email included savings on trips to various major cities, with articles on why they’re great destinations, to entice the reader. Links for the promo codes come right after.


A.C. Moore
Here’s a cute, playful CTA for artsy folk, from A.C. Moore.


Road Runner Sports
These Road Runner Sports buttons aren’t too fancy, but the bold color is eye-catching and I appreciated the very clear, easy-to-navigate categories. Often email promos will have different links to several sections of the website, but they are spaced out and require a lot of scrolling to see. If I already know what I want to shop for, I’m much more likely to click when it’s laid out for me right at the start like this.


How fun are these? No further commentary needed.


Might as well stick with the shoe theme! This comes from Zumiez. Just a simple, transparent rectangle with a bold, simple font and a bold border. While it looks fairly basic, it’s a change from the solid-filled box that I know I use a lot in emails. I’ve noticed this transparent style in a few other big-name retailers as well, like Abercrombie & Fitch and 6PM.com, as well as that April Fool’s ModCloth email earlier in the post. It does have a certain elegance to it, don’t you think?


Birchbox, like Modcloth, has a fun, girly flair to it. I found two examples of CTAs that both definitely catch the eye, and use unique language.



Bed Bath and Beyond
I like these “clearance tag”-styled Bed Bath and Beyond links.


Lyris had a simple spin on the typical webinar register button. These appeared at both the beginning and the end of the copy. It’s simple, as the look for a professional webinar should be, but the rounded edges, rich color and even the reverse type make for an aesthetically pleasing design. “Reserve Your Spot Now” gives a little more of a sense of urgency than just the “Register Now.”

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Entrepreneur Magazine’s 2015 Growth Conference
Finally, for another non-retail example, here’s a little something from an email promoting Entrepreneur Magazine’s 2015 Growth Conference. Couple of elements I like: the promo code included in the CTA, the underlined emphasis on REGISTER TODAY, and of course the little cursor graphic that my eye went to immediately. (Don’t you always just feel the need to line up your cursor with it when you see something like this? Or is that just me?)


That’s just from a quick sift through my own inbox and WhosMailingWhat.com. I hope you’re feeling called to action now … that is, inspired for your next email. As always, feel free to leave a comment and tell me any other great examples you might have for these tricky little guys. This blog serves as my own learning tool as much as anything else!

See ya in two weeks!